The Art of Asking
It takes all kinds, they say. As a very young boy, I remember Sunday afternoons as an exciting opportunity for all sorts of adventure. Whether it was exploring the muddy creek bed behind our house, building elaborate fortifications in the thick grove, or mounting my banana seat to grip the tasseled handlebars of my aluminum steed and chase down robbers, there was always some mischief in need of conjuring.
mine was blue, with clouds, and those sweet spoke-slidy things
Sunday mornings typically found myself at church - this was the perfect opportunity to recruit an ally for my afternoon roguery. This generally manifest itself in one of two ways:
a.) I begged my parents to invite a friend over for the afternoon.
b.) I begged a friend's parents to invite me over for the afternoon.
I know. Shameless. My mother would scold me. "You can't just invite yourself over to other people's houses all the time! RUDE!" But it didn't bother me. I knew what I wanted. I knew who could give it to me. And I knew it wouldn't happen unless someone initiated the conversation - someone had to ask the question. I learned that if I wanted a thing, that someone must be me.
There was a time in my childhood when I would employ these strategies multiple times a week. It was constant. My success rate was maybe 28% or lower. But it didn't matter. I was learning how many no's it took to get to a yes, and as anyone in sales will tell you, there's nothing quite like closing the deal. It only had to work a couple of times for it be worth it to me, and it only reinforced what I was learning. You never know until you ask.
Of course, when you ask 'yes-or-no' questions you learn other things too - such as, what it's like to be rejected, the disappointment that comes with failure, and the frustration that accompanies seemingly fruitless effort. These are hard lessons to learn, but equally critical. An idealist like myself always needs to keep a foot in reality - to have an honest understanding of not only what he is asking for, but also the odds of what he is up against. What lies between him and that beautiful 'yes!'
If you ask me, no is a terrible word. It has it's uses - it's even important, but the poor thing is too often misunderstood and abused. I think I know why. I can't speak for everyone, but for my part, somewhere along the way, my shamelessness became replaced with fear. You hear that ugly word too many times as a child, and it starts to hurt. You start to feel terror that if you ask for a thing you'll only be rejected again, and it will hurt worse. You'll start to question your own desires - if no one will ever say yes, am I even supposed to want this thing? Is there something wrong with me for wanting it? We naturally seek to preserve ourselves - to avoid pain, if we can. You don't have to walk into an electric fence too many times before you learn to avoid it all together. You just stop asking.
a terrible word
I think this is a widespread problem. I think we all doubt ourselves from time to time - some of us perpetually so. I think fear is a great inhibitor, the killer of beautiful dreams and big ideas. I think we're afraid of no. So rather than allowing our imaginations to carry us boldly to the next phase - exploration - we let the things we care about expire in the incubator. We assume failure before we even test the waters. We just have no confidence that anyone will care, and certainly that anyone would ever say yes. We've built a wall of complacency around our passionate hearts, and we've become sort of comfortable with mediocre versions of our desires and dreams.
But I've been relearning something lately, and it's exhilarating to discover. People like to say yes. Not everyone can, not enough do, but they want to. They want leaders and innovators and creatives to sweep them off their feet with passion and confidence. They want your light to spill into them, filling them like a vessel with excitement and meaning. People are good and like to be apart of good things. People want to connect themselves to those who make them happen. People want to support them, enable them, and join them. They want to say yes. You know what they are waiting for?
They are waiting for you to ask them.
Don't believe me? Have you heard too many no's? I get it. I've heard my share of that ugly word. But you cannot let your vision for something good die in a decaying landscape of unasked questions. Not when there is a chance of getting that yes. If you do let it die without at least asking, you know what that tells me? It was never that important to you. No matter how thick the cocoon of apathy and fear you've woven about your inhibited heart, the reality is this: You have nothing to lose by asking. Think about it. The worst they can do is say no. And what if they do say no? Not only should you be proud that you tried, but often times those no's become the breadcrumbs to a future or different yes.
It takes all kinds. Not all of us have natural charisma - for some of us, asking anything is really hard. For others, it seems they sprang from the womb with a penchant for persuasion, and it all comes so easy for them. Lucky devils. But I'm not talking about natural charisma. I'm talking about you believing in yourself enough to summon the confidence to take that next critical step. Passion and confidence can be learned. But it all has to start somewhere. The art of asking is simply that - ask.
Misfit Theatre Company